The Harper Index

Burma actions don't match resolution Conservatives supported in 2005

Harper refused to meet last year with leader of government in exile.

Micheline Levesque, Mehdi Kouhestaninejad, Paul Dewar, Alex Bookbinder, Tin Maung Htoo,David KilgourOTTAWA, October 5, 2007: Activists are calling on the Harper government to take action on concrete commitments the Conservatives made in 2005 by voting for a House resolution on support for democracy in Burma.

Until recently, the Harper Conservatives could count on the Bloc Québécois for support in Parliament. It is easy to forget that under the Liberals, the Bloc could often count on the Conservatives for support. In 2004 and 2005, the Bloc got Conservative support, in the face of Liberal opposition, on a hard-hitting motion on Burma.

Federal Conservatives supported the Bloc in its Motion on Burma (Second Report), which was adopted at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and later by the House of Commons, with only the governing Liberals dissenting. The motion called upon the government to take concrete measures in support of democracy in Burma. Activists say the measures it calls for are in sharp contrast with the largely-rhetorical response of the Harper Conservatives to the repression of democracy demonstrations in Burma. Since 1989 the country has been ruled by a military junta that renamed the country Myanmar.

The government has met some of the rhetoric the motion called for, including "condemn[ing] more forcefully the repeated and systematic human rights violations" and "urg[ing]the authorities in Burma to release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners..."

Burma democracy activists criticize the government, however, for not going beyond words and pursuing the concrete actions called for in the resolution the Conservatives supported two years ago. These include calls to:

- provide tangible support to the legitimate authorities in Burma, specifically the government in exile;

- impose more comprehensive economic measures on Burma;

- bring pressure to bear on the United Nations Secretary General and the international community; bring the military junta to negotiate a peaceful transition toward democracy; and

- call upon the authorities in Burma to include the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other political parties.

Last fall, when Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the Union of Burma visited Canada, Stephen Harper refused to meet him. Activists suggest that sort of rejection is easier than stepping up to the podium and speaking out.

"I'm very, very disappointed at the government of Canada," said Tin Maung Htoo of the Canadian Friends of Burma at a Parliament Hill news conference organized by New Democrats Paul Dewar. "Such statements have been made since 1988 at the time of the first uprising in Burma, but we haven't seen any concrete action against Burma."

He called upon Stephen Harper to expel the Myanmar's Canadian mission from Ottawa. Paul Dewar called on Canada to make sure Canadian pension money is not invested in Burma.

Activists believe pressue can best be applied through Burma's closest neighbours and trading partners, China and India. "Monks in Burma are being killed by guns made in China," said former independent MP David Kilgour.

Many activists are saying Canada and other nations should threaten to boycott the Olympics if China continues to support the dictator. One is online activist and UBC student Alex Bookbinder, who started a Facebook group that has attracted 300,000 visitors. The group is promoting protest actions around the world. For more information about this group, go to Facebook and search on "Support the monks' protest in Burma".

Harper Conservative vs. Public Values Frame
  Opposition resolution / Concrete government action
  Rhetoric / Pressure China

Links and sources
  Motion on Burma (Second Report), which was adopted at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, 38th Parliament
  Sein Win, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  Harper urged to speak out on Burma, Toronto Star, Oct 04, 2007
  Activists, Mps Want to Freeze Trade with Burma, Embassy, October 3rd, 2007
  Concrete Canadian action needed to end military dictatorship in Burma, Canadian Coalition for Democracies, Wednesday, 26 September 2007
  Burma: No Clean Hands for Foreign Businesses, ITUC, Brussels, 2 October 2007

Posted: October 05, 2007

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